Gabriel Garcia Moreno--Regenerator of Ecuador - Mrs. Maxwell Scott

Inner Life

Before relating the last tragic scene in our great President's life, it will be interesting to consider him in his daily work, and to try to penetrate some of the secrets of the inner life which bore such rich fruit. St. Teresa, in her Life exclaims: "Oh, if kings were to make half an hour's meditation daily, the face of the earth would be quickly renewed." Moreno put this ideal in practice, and it is true to say that he had the consolation of restoring faith and piety to his country. His life was one of hard labor and austere in its simplicity. He rose every day at five o'clock, and was always in Church at six to make his meditation and hear Mass.

At seven o'clock he would visit the Hospital, and then retire to his library to work hard till ten o'clock. After a frugal breakfast he went to the Government Palace to work till three. At four he dined, and then paid any necessary visits, inspected public works, and settled disputes brought before him. At six he returned home to spend the evening with his family till nine o'clock, when he would go back to his library to write letters and work till eleven or twelve o'clock. This was his home life, but if difficulties arose, and his presence was needed in any part of the country, Moreno would be on horseback from morning till night, his wonderful constitution resisting all fatigue.

In his inspections or campaigns his only rest was taken wrapped in his cloak on the ground. The Imitation was his constant companion in all his journeys, and after his death the well-worn copy was found in his pocket. It had been given to him by a friend on September 24th, 1860, the day of the taking of Guayaquil. On the last page was found written the rule he had laid down for himself, and it is very touching to read the humble and simple words of this strong man, who outwardly, no doubt, often appeared somewhat stern and proud.

"Every morning when saying my prayers I will ask specially for humility. Everyday I will hear Mass, say the Rosary, and will read, besides a chapter of the Imitation, this Rule and the instructions which are added to it. I will endeavor to keep myself as much as possible in the presence of God, especially during conversation, that I may not exceed in words. I will often offer my heart to God, principally before beginning any actions. Every hour I will say to myself: 'I am worse than a demon, and hell ought to be my dwelling-place.' In temptations I will add: 'What should I think of all this in my last agony?' In my room never to pray sitting when I can do so on my knees or standing. Practice daily little acts of humility, as kissing the ground; to rejoice when I, or my actions, are censured. Never to speak of myself except to avow my faults or defects. To make efforts, by thinking of Jesus and Mary, to restrain my impatience and go against my natural inclinations; to be kind to all, even with the importunate, and never to speak ill of my enemies. Every morning, before beginning my work, I will write down what I have to do, being very careful to distribute my time well, to give myself only to useful and necessary business, and to continue it with zeal and perseverance. I will scrupulously observe the law of justice and truth, and have no intentions in all my actions save the greater glory of God . . . . I will go to confession every week . . . . I will never pass more than an hour in any amusement, and in general never before eight o'clock in the evening."

All who knew him best tell us with what conscientiousness and scrupulous fidelity Moreno acted up to his resolutions. To him difficulties and so-called impossibilities did not exist. To objections of this kind his invariable reply was: "God never dies, God is, and that is enough. What is impossible to God?"

His great devotion was to the Blessed Sacrament, and he was constantly seen kneeling in adoration before the altar. It was his delight to follow the priest when he took Holy Communion to the sick, and in the great processions he would carry the Banner before the Blessed Sacrament. In 1873 he had the consolation of consecrating Ecuador to the Sacred Heart by an official Decree. On this occasion he attended the solemn ceremony in the Cathedral, and after the Archbishop had said the Act of Consecration, the President repeated it in the name of the State.

As we have seen, he was a true son of Our Lady, and had a special devotion to St. Joseph and to Blessed Mariana, who is called the Lily of Quito, the patroness of Ecuador, whose shrine he restored magnificently. He had a horror of availing himself of any exemptions on the ground of his rank, and when he joined the Sodality of Our Lady insisted on belonging to the Band for the working men. On the occasion of a Jubilee, when he was told he might be dispensed from some of the conditions on account of his many occupations, he replied: "God preserve me from that, I am merely a Christian like any other"; and again, when the Superior of a Religious House offered to send his Confessor to him weekly to save him the walk, his only answer was: "My Father, it is for the sinner to go to his judge, not for the judge to run after the sinner."

Moreno was a most interesting and charming companion. With his vast knowledge he was able to "talk medicine with doctors, jurisprudence with lawyers, theology with ecclesiastics, agriculture with peasants." With his friends he was ever simple and cheerful, although his manner was always grave and dignified. His appearance at this time was most striking, with his fine head, white hair, and large dark eyes; and although in his younger days his stern expression gave signs of the storms and stress of his life, as he grew older and the state of the country improved, his face became calm and peaceful. In spite of his extraordinary talents and naturally imperious character, Moreno remained ever humble, and although he was accused by his enemies of pride and ambition, all we know of him shows us that he never coveted power for his own sake, and only used it for God's glory and the welfare of his country.

Moreno never desired popularity nor made the slightest concession of principle to obtain it. He was quite unmoved by the abuse which the Revolutionary papers poured forth against him, being quite content, he said, to be treated like Our Lord and the Church. To a Religious who told him of some insults he had received he replied: "I sympathize with your sufferings, but you have had a magnificent occasion of meriting for Eternity. The blows you have received may appear to you less hard if you compare them with those with which they overwhelm me daily. Do like me—place the outrages at the foot of the Cross and beg God to forgive the guilty. Ask Him to give me sufficient strength not only to do good to those who let loose on me, by word or writing, the flood of hatred which fills their hearts, but also to rejoice before God to have something to suffer in union with the Lord. It is for me a real happiness as well as an unmerited honor to endure the insults of the Revolution in company with the Religious Orders, the Bishops, and even the Sovereign Pontiff.

If Moreno occasionally defended his opinion with too much passion and vigor, it was less in order to defeat an adversary than to defend truth. With his great intellectual powers and strong faith and logic he judged modern theories severely, and, with the Church, considered them subversive of society. If some Liberal vaunted such ideas in his presence, the President by a few words—sometimes expressed too strongly—crushed his argument, and then, entering into the heart of the question, he would demonstrate its futility. "In arithmetic," he would say, "no eloquence is needed, only figures; in philosophy and in politics no speechifying, but reasons." On other matters "you know this subject better than I do."

Above all he was ever ready to make amends if he had been in fault. On one occasion when he was very busy and worried an ecclesiastic interrupted him about a matter of so-called importance. Moreno received him brusquely, and as the matter proved insignificant he bade him adieu still more abruptly, saying: "It was not worth your while to trouble yourself, or me either, for such a trifle." The Priest retired somewhat mortified, but had ceased to think of the matter when, early next morning, the President visited him to ask pardon for his "violent and disrespectful" conduct.

An officer, a friend of Moreno's, had for some trivial reason left off saluting or visiting him. Meeting him one day the President came up to him, saying: "I make you my Aide-de-Camp." The officer remained silent from surprise. "There," said Moreno, bowing before him, "if you want my head—there it is," and they renewed their friendship from that time.

Penetrated with the idea of his own worthlessness, he constantly begged for prayers, and in his private letters to the Bishops, his friends, he would press them to tell him of anything they thought reprehensible in his actions and to show him the means of using his power in a more advantageous manner for the cause of God and the Church.

A Professor of botany, having discovered a plant unknown in the flora of the country, asked his leave to call it the Tacsonia Garcia Moreno. "If you wish to do me a pleasure," replied the President, "you will put aside my poor personality: if your flower is rare, pretty and unknown to Ecuador, make the homage of your discovery to the Flower of Heaven: call it the Tacsonia Maria."

A German Professor of the Polytechnic School draws an interesting picture of Moreno in his country home, where he was privileged to visit him. "He always edified me," he writes, "by his goodness, his earnestness accompanied by a charming amiability, and above all by his profound piety. In the morning, when the time came for Mass, he himself prepared everything in his Chapel and served Mass, which was attended by his family and the village people. If you could have seen him, with his tall stature, his marked features, his white hair and his military bearing; if you could have read in his countenance, as we could, his fear of God, his living faith, the ardent piety with which his heart was filled, you would understand the respect which all felt in the presence of this man of God."

Garcia Moreno


If it be urged that he showed himself too severe on some occasions when the nation's welfare necessitated the punishment of treachery or crime, we would reply in his own words to a Religious who interceded for a young man under sentence of banishment: "We have enough assassins in Ecuador without this one. You lament over the fate of the executioners, but I have pity on the victims."

The work of reforming and bringing up to date the hospitals was one of those he had most at heart. "Our few charitable institutions," he said in Congress, "present a dismal picture unworthy of a Christian and civilized nation, not only on account of the absolute insufficiency of the revenues to support them, but especially from want of charity in those who serve them." He spoke with full knowledge, as from the earliest days of his Presidency he had constituted himself director of the chief Hospital of Quito. He visited it daily in order to see that the officials fulfilled their duties properly. He would go through the wards, inspect the doctors' prescriptions and show the infirmarians how to prepare the medicines or to dress the patients' wounds, and any negligence was severely punished.

There are many stories told of the President's love of justice and very practical care for the ill-used or the sick from which we will select the following instance. One of the Hospitals in Quito was for Lepers, and these poor people having complained of their food Moreno went unexpectedly one day and partook of dinner with them. Finding cause for complaint he ordered a better diet, but returning one day and finding that everything was satisfactory, he met the complaint of a still discontented patient with the remark, "Do you know, my friend, that I am not so well served myself though I am President of the Republic." His crowning charity to the sick was to give them Sisters of Charity to care for their bodies and souls, and under their charge the Hospital of St. John of God at Quito became a model hospital. Moreno also established others in different towns, placing them too under the Sisters' care. What would this great man have said to the laicization of hospitals which it is our grief to witness in these days?

After arriving at any town, Moreno's first visit was to the Hospital, and on one occasion, at Guayaquil, he found many of the patients lying on the ground on mats. Much distressed, the President turned to the Governor and asked why they were not given the necessary comforts. "Excellency," replied the governor, "we have no more money." "That does not prevent you who are well from sleeping on a good mattress, while these suffering members of Jesus Christ have only the ground to rest on." "In some weeks we shall provide for all their needs." "Not in some weeks," replied Moreno, "for they cannot wait. You will sleep here tonight by them on a mat, and on the following nights until each sick person has a bed and a mattress." Before night the hospital was filled with beds and the Governor could repose on his own.

It is needless to say that part of the President's income went to his beloved sick, and he rejoiced at giving them any comfort or pleasure possible. During his first Presidency, his wife, Dona Rosa, remarked to him that it was usual to give an official banquet to the Ministers and Diplomats, and when he explained that his means did not permit of this expense, she said she would provide the money, and gave him five hundred piastres, begging him to do the thing well. But the President could not make up his mind to do as she wished, and going to the hospital with his Aide-de-camp he provided, instead, for the most pressing necessities of the invalids, and ordered a magnificent dinner for them, and when Dona Rosa asked if he had found the money sufficient he replied, laughing heartily, "I thought that a good dinner would do more good to the sick than to the Diplomats."